Gilberto J. Diaz (or Coach Gil, as his many players knew him), served for many years as the Director of Youth Soccer for Chicagoland club Real FC, as well as head coach and de facto chauffeur for various teams.
After fleeing from communist Cuba at the age of 12, Coach Gil landed in Madrid, Spain, where he fell hopelessly in love with the beautiful game, cheering on his beloved Atlético de Madrid and favorite player, José Eulegio Gárate. Later in life Coach Gil often reminisced of playing fútbol on the streets of Madrid every day, typically using garbage cans as goal posts, and credited the game as a unique and important opportunity for youth to come together regardless of their circumstances.
After eventually emigrating to the United States and building his life and family in Chicago, Coach Gil dedicated decades to creating and maintaining accessible high-level youth soccer teams in the Chicagoland area as a counterweight to expensive “pay to play” clubs which he felt often excluded talented, hard-working kids from playing at the highest level due to their economic means. A patented pharmaceutical research biologist by profession, Coach Gil often joked that his time coaching and organizing for Real FC youth soccer was “his true full-time job.” Coach Gil was also an enthusiastic supporter of the Chicago Fire from their inaugural season until the end and was known to transport full teams of young fans to matches at Soldier Field and Toyota Park.
Coach Gil passed away on February 5th, 2018, following a year and a half battle with a rare neuroendocrine cancer at the age of 60. His surviving wife, three futbolista sons, and countless former players are proud that he never "parked the bus" even when most outmatched by cancer; rather, he continued attacking and pressed for a winning goal until the final whistle.
In honor of Coach Gil, his love of fútbol, and his devotion to underprivileged youth, we’ve teamed with Urban Initiatives to further the mission to empower kids from all backgrounds through sport. Urban Initiatives heightens the inherent power of sports and unifies diverse stakeholders to develop and support Chicago youth. Their innovative approach embeds opportunities for growth in sport and play. They engage students and their families from a young age and build relationships that last through high school and beyond. They are working to empower youth to become Chicago's next generation of community leaders through academic success, healthy living, and social-emotional learning.